In the last decade or so, women have been inundated with movies created "for" us — cloying romantic comedies in which the heroine is charming but clumsy/insecure/desperate; in which she can have a "cool" job but can never truly successful. And, as we learned in that Tad Friend piece about Anna Faris in The New Yorker earlier this year:
"To make a woman adorable, one successful female screenwriter says, "you have to defeat her at the beginning. It's a conscious thing I do — abuse and break her, strip her of her dignity, and then she gets to live out our fantasies and have fun. It's as simple as making the girl cry, fifteen minutes into the movie."
Even better: Have her literally fall down, violently. Hilarious, right?
But with Young Adult, Diablo Cody has thrown the usual tropes out the window. Charlize Theron plays Mavis, who is not the eyelash-batting optimist, but very blunt and fairly ruthless. Cody tells NPR:
I noticed in so many conventional romantic comedies, the women are always getting flustered. She never is. She blatantly tells the saleswoman that she's trying to break up a marriage.
There are plenty of movies in which the main character is unsympathetic, unlikeable and unappealing, but he's usually a man (think American Psycho, or Adam Sandler comedies). "I think we're more conditioned to accept a male curmudgeon or a male antihero," Cody tells NPR's Linda Holmes. In an interview with New York magazine, she says something similar:
"I felt like there were a lot of movies out there about the man-child. It had become a kind of genre unto itself," Cody says, referring to the films of Judd Apatow and his peers, from Knocked Up to The Hangover. "Everybody thinks the man-child is so funny and cuddly and lovable, but I thought there's something sinister and disturbing about a woman who's in the same place."
Could it be that the rise of reality shows — in which women are often nasty-backstabby harpies not here to make friends — have prepared us for feature films with seriously flawed female characters? This year we've seen Bad Teacher and the boorish babes of Bridesmaids. Cody tells New York: "I believe in just having as many representations as possible of women onscreen … good, bad, shitty, whatever. There just needs to be volume."